Drake’s new video for “Hotline Bling” has the Internet lit up with blistering comments on his “uncool” dancing, especially. But would cool have been the right note to strike in this melancholy song?

So much of the design of this video is out of synch with current fashions, enough to convey that being out of step—or, gack! old-guy-ish– is the whole point.

Singing about rejection and isolation, Drake appears drained of self-confidence, alone with his fantasies of exaggerated female assets, in a sterile environment whose only warmth comes from the hallucinatory candy-colored lighting. (Maybe that’s why he needs his puffer jacket and boots.) The lighting design, shifting gradually from pink to green to yellow, is a clear reference to James Turrell’s installation a few years back at New York’s Guggenheim Museum, when the building’s rotunda was lit by changeable, meditative hues.

In “Hotline Bling,” these lights are more extreme than in the Turrell show. They create an otherworldly effect, meant to evoke the singer’s separation and loneliness. A tribute to the venerable Turrell is a nice touch, but it is not the cutting edge. The light show is more in keeping with the high-waisted jeans on the phone-sex operators and references in Drake’s lyrics to “you used to call me on my cell phone.” Everything is a bit retro. Poor guy, sexting has simply passed him by.

Do we buy that? Part of the Question of Drake—an artist who’s particularly good at sparking annoyance– is his sincerity. Is he truly uncool (which is kind of cool) or does he just play at being uncool (which is pretentious)? Here is where we can look to what his body tells us. His dancing is anti-edge: It’s old-school, curled in, unsure. These are the ways of the tortured soul, we’re meant to think, the lonelyheart too pained to care about sharpness or chic.

Drake does a good impression of an awkward kid at a high-school dance back in the ‘80s. Maybe it’s not just an impression; maybe this is his best, and the video’s Director X cannily worked with it. Drake’s moves are entirely of a piece with the emotional tone of the whole design—nostalgic, exaggerated. This is true also of the women in the video, with their curves enthusiastically amplified. I suppose this coven of sirens resides in Drake’s tortured imagination. And this is where he loses me.

Drake is more sympathetic alone, unfashionably himself, in his own world. His spastic fingers and offbeat, pumping shoulders—it’s a vulnerable display. I find it endearing. But once the women appear, uncomfortably squeezed into skin-tight jeans and stilettos, sculpted and arranged like fantasy toys, I’m no longer on the side of the slouching outcast in his comfy footwear. There’s not a lot that’s authentic here, but Drake’s dancing is not the culprit.

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